Talent House opens in east London
Talent House opens in east London to nurture diverse talent in the arts
The Talent House is an enclave for London’s future artistic talent
Sugar House Island is a work in progress, construction workers are not expected to leave until 2024, but an idea of the future atmosphere is already beginning to emerge. A short distance from Stratford and the Olympic Park, a series of mid-rise structures will stand alongside a number of former warehouses and factories in the area. It is in one of these old buildings, formerly owned by an ink manufacturing company, that The Talent House will be located. The Talent House provides a home base for two organizations: UD Music – which was established in 2000 to create a platform for the next generation of black music artists, entrepreneurs and creatives; and East London Dance – championing emerging dancers and producers in the contemporary and street dance genres.
The shared building has a sense of dynamism, with a natural interaction between the architecture and the passionate people who work there. Entering a glass-encased atrium from the street, one is as likely to find a troupe of dancers performing an impromptu performance as a group of producers finalizing final plans for a concert later in the day. This is a recurring theme in the building; each space is conducive to gathering, creation and exchange.
The extension to the original factory building was completed by Waugh Thistleton Architects, but the spatial planning and design details were executed by Citizens Design Bureau. Although the new wing is for UD Music members only, the shared facilities, wayfinding signage by Templo, and common staircase allow the two organizations to connect seamlessly. The staircase and walkways that connect the two parts of the building are the only places where the building’s cross-laminated timber structure is evident. Elsewhere, it’s been encased in liners that serve to improve aesthetics and acoustics.
On the ground floor, a shared social center is illuminated by natural light that enters through the original large openings, providing a place for debriefing and socializing. On the other side of the new wing, there are a series of teaching spaces; a 21-desk Tech Lab for entry-level music education and production; library; and an amphitheater, which doubles as a flexible event space. On the upper level, a maze of vocal booths and music production rooms rub shoulders with a large concert hall. All of these spaces have been finished to the highest acoustic standards and come complete with the consoles and audio equipment to make musical magic a reality. These spaces are all part of the building’s sustainability strategy, ensuring it is a key part of creating and engaging with black culture in London.
Also on the first floor are the shared offices for the two organizations, with dot plywood wall covering reappearing throughout the building. Citizens Design Bureau has clearly thought of the needs of end users, with a range of workspaces: meeting cabins, open hot-desking space and quiet modules for focused work. The bespoke plywood cardboard desks that are scattered throughout the offices and throughout the building have a refined, raw look, specially designed for The Talent House by architect Katy Marks.
At the top of the original building, East London Dance has its largest dance studio, a vaulted space lit by a large circular opening in the north wall. It is a clean and perfectly finished space, ready to be inhabited. This space characterizes the approach through the entire building. Here, “all are welcome”, says Pamela McCormick, director at UD music.
Between UD Music and East London Dance, around 65% of end users come from BAME backgrounds in some of London’s poorer boroughs, but the design doesn’t appropriate clichéd patterns as a symbol. The £4.1m budget has clearly worked hard and produced a sophisticated building to match what a sophisticated talent development platform is. §